A Word in Your Ear

There is something deliciously private about the written word. That probably sounds slightly ridiculous, especially when my job is to publish and make public words that I write. But think about it for a second. The relationship between the reader and writer is intimate. It is one to one. I particularly feel that intimacy when I am curled up on a sofa reading a book in which I become so absorbed that nothing else matters apart from those words on the page that are conjuring up a world created for me by another writer. Of course, they are not created specially for me but it feels like it and that is one of the many magical properties of books.

So if something I have written appears in a different medium it takes on a new character. Take audio, for example. The Colonel of Tamarkan appeared as an audio book in 2010. And it went through quite a process before it became runner up in the Audio Book of the Year (beaten by Dr Who). First it had to be abridged. That is a strange but fascinating process. 127 thousand words had to be distilled into about twenty-five thousand whilst not losing the thread of the story. The nimble fingered Neville Teller did a wonderful job to the extent that when listening to the book it is quite difficult to recall what he left out. I say nimble fingered because it felt to me as if he had unpicked a jumper and crocheted a scarf in the same colour and design.

Then there has to be a reader. Chrome Audio engaged Anton Lesser. I was lucky enough to meet him when he arrived to do the reading. As I listened to him speaking words that I had written six years earlier, investing them with meaning, I felt them lift off the page and gain a rounded form. It was intensely exciting and he really ‘got’ my grandfather’s voice. He captured the humour and the despair beautifully. The result is marvellous. It is public too but still in an intimate way because although it has been broadcast on the radio several times, there is more often than not a one to one relationship between the listener and the radio.

So when I heard that Chrome wanted to make an audio book out of Jambusters, I was immediately enthusiastic. Neville Teller has once again unpicked my narrative and produced a lively and cleverly shaped script which will be read by Samantha Bond, one of my favourite actors. I am so looking forward to hearing those women I came to know so intimately while I was writing the book have a life beyond the pages. I know she will breathe life into them, as Anton did with the Colonel, and I think the result will be equally marvellous.

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